Whitley Warriors hosted the NIHL North Champions the Solway Sharks on Sunday evening at Hillheads and lost a 12-goal end to end encounter.
The only senior member of Warriors’ roster unavailable going into the game was blue liner Ross Hanlon, however, Daniel Murdy also ended up playing no part in the contest after he picked up an injury in the warm-up. Whitley started the game on the front foot and when a powerplay chance came their way Jamie Tinsley made no mistake to fire Simon Leach’s side into a 1-0 lead.
They made it 2-0 on eight minutes when skipper DJ Good found the top left hand corner of the net after Adam Reynolds’ pin point pass picked him out.
Despite being two down Sharks were still creating plenty of offensive opportunities and Ross Murray got a goal back for the visitors after 12 minutes.
Solway then drew level three minutes later when Alane Crane fired past Richie Lawson in the Warriors net after being set up by Iain Bowie.
Towards the end of the opening period Tinsley was given a two-minute minor penalty for slashing.
Solway’s impressive powerplay unit clicked into gear and import defenceman Juraj Senko lit the lamp which saw Sharks hold a 3-2 lead after 20 minutes.
Warriors were dealt another blow late in the first period when blue liner Nathan Ryder injured his shoulder and took no further part in the game.
The middle period was a much quieter affair until the final four minutes of the session when Warriors levelled the game up on 36 minutes.
Karl Culley found the back of the net after some pleasing build-up play from Rob Wilson and Adam Reynolds.
But Sharks hit back immediately as Stevie Adams scored two minutes later.
Two penalties were also handed out in the aftermath of the goal as Whitley ‘D’ man Josh Maddock picked up a boarding penalty for taking out Adams after the Solway number 14 had found the back of the net while Adams himself picked up a roughing penalty for his reaction to the coming together on the boards behind the goal.
Warriors started the third period positively and tied the game up at 4-4 on 44 minutes when Tom Ralph and Culley combined to set up Tinsley who beat Sharks netminder Gary Russell at his near post for his second goal of the game.
Shortly afterwards Whitley’s Dan Harris was sent to the sin bin on a two-minute slashing penalty when his infringement prevented a swift Solway counter attack.
Sharks took full advantage of their powerplay chance once again and Struan Tonnar fired home to the delight of the group of travelling Sharks fans behind the away bench.
Tonnar was looking dangerous for Solway when he was on the puck and he made it 6-4 to the Sharks on 53 minutes when he managed to get the puck past Lawson despite the Warriors man coming off his line in an effort to clear the puck to safety.
Whitley were able to hit back straight away when Jordan Barnes scored from close range to get Warriors within a goal of their opponents.
They went on to exert a great deal of pressure on Solway’s defence in the final few minutes of play, however, Sharks netminder Russell made a number of smart stops.
Whitley Coach Simon Leach opted to pull his netminder for an extra out skater with around a minute of the game remaining.
Warriors went on to call a timeout at 59.18 to finalise their offensive plans, however, when their attacking move broke down Sharks’ Murray was able to shoot into the empty net which saw Solway claim the two points on offer thanks to a 7-5 victory.
Warriors’ man of the match went to the hard-working Tinsley, who found the back of the net on two occasions while Juraj Senko was selected as Solway’s best player on the night.
After the game, Whitley assistant coach Dave Holland said: “A very disappointing result as I felt we had a good chance against Solway as they were a little short benched.
“We were up for the game and started well with the two goals, we then fell asleep a little and they capitalised on that, which shows they are a very good team.
“During the second and third periods we were aggressive and for-checked hard, which put them under pressure, and we capitalised on that, however, unfortunately mistakes cost us in the end.
“Dan Harris and Christian Johnson were both really good tonight in defence for us, we lost Nathan Ryder during the first with that shoulder injury, which we hope isn’t too serious.”
Whitley are next in action this coming Sunday when they make the short journey down the A19 to Teesside to take on fierce rivals the Billingham Stars in a local derby.
Warriors then travel up to Scotland to face the Solway Sharks away from home on November 23 before returning home to face-off against the Sheffield Spartans on December 1 on Tyneside.